Brexit impact on food production ‘major’: N8 AgriFood annual conference review

Global food security debated at major UK Agrifood conference.

Leading researchers, industry experts and representatives from across the agrifood sector debated some of the most pressing challenges facing the future of global food security at a major conference in Liverpool this month.

Tackling the complex challenges facing the food system took centre stage at this year’s N8 AgriFood International Conference 2018: ‘People, Health and Food Systems, challenges and solutions for 2030’, hosted by the Universities of Liverpool and York.

More than 80 speakers took part at the showpiece two-day event at Liverpool’s Hilton Hotel, 13-14th June 2018, where attendees representing academia and industry came together to address the key issues facing the food system. The conference attracted 300 attendees from the UK, Europe, America, Asia and Africa.

Participating organisations include: The Real Junk Food Project, Farm Urban, DEFRA, The Trussell Group, Mathys-Squire, Pepsico, Waitrose, Co-op, William Jackson Food Group, Samworth Brothers, WRAP, Mondelez, Nestle, First Love Foundations, Can Cook Kitchen, the Environmental Change Institute, The Food Domain, the Food Standards Agency, SIME-Darby PLC, Decarbonize Ltd, Living Loud, IFSTAL, Innovate UK and the British Geological Society.

During lively debates, conference speakers  discussed some of the biggest issues facing the sector including Brexit, food poverty, changing consumer behaviour, food waste and bio-economies, new technologies, food safety and resilience in supply chains and urban and vertical farming.

The impact of Brexit was addressed in a keynote speech from Professor The Lord Trees, the renowned veterinary surgeon and academic and chair of the Moredun Research Institute which conducts research into diseases of farm livestock and the promotion of animal health and welfare.


Anthonia James, Operations Director of N8 AgriFood Programme, based at the University of York said: “Food security – the provision of sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all, produced in a sustainable, resilient and equitable manner – can no longer focus just on agriculture.

“Thinking and action is required across the whole food system in all its complexity and on the influences of food systems on public health. There is also a need to examine how contextual changes, such as Brexit, will affect the outcomes of the food system and how N8 AgriFood and its collaborators can prepare for these changes.

“Further work is also needed to understand how the food system has an impact on the environment, the space in which we live, and how transformations beyond the farm gate can drive shifts in sustainability.

“N8 AgriFood aims to influence change upon the future of the food system through a unique collaborative approach encouraging contribution beyond academia to include all those involved from food production, its supply and consumption. This conference, attracting experts from around the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the USA , has resulted in an unprecedented exchange of ideas, the forging of new partnerships, as well as showcasing innovation across the agri-food sector.”

The annual conference is organised by the N8 AgriFood Programme, part of the N8 Research Partnership, which aims to maximise the impact of research expertise from the eight most research intensive universities in the North of England: Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York. Its purpose is to promote collaboration, establish innovative research capabilities and drive economic growth.

Mark Suthern, National Head of Agriculture at Barclays and N8 AgriFood External Advisory Board member for the N8 AgriFood programme said: “The industry is now facing unprecedented challenges with growing populations, climate change, and the potential implications of Brexit. Working together, industry and academia can play a major role in delivering solutions for a more sustainable food system that is fit for the future.

“The N8 AgriFood conference aims to achieve raised awareness of the complexity of the food system, it’s an important opportunity for the programme to bring together key players. Collaboration across the sector is central to influencing change and N8 AgriFood is at the forefront of these efforts.”